The music biz is an increasingly DIY affair, with everyone doing the McCartney I thing, i.e. writing, playing and producing everything or nearly everything on their records. Of course, today’s technology allows artists without a Beatlesque past to make some pretty sweet recordings. Case in point: Red Cabin, the tidy and picturesque project of Long Island, New York’s Jonathan Foster. Red Cabin ranges from the amplified home recording sound of his first album, Right This Way, and EP Wander in 2014, to the more complex and professional-sounding Camp Fire and White Morning, both released simultaneously in 2016. In the middle are some key transition singles, namely “The Pull” and “Patterns.” Linking all the changes is a keen attention to unusual vocal arrangements, amid fairly rapid shifts in musical attack – singular acoustic guitars suddenly flooded by electric instruments, or a full on band drops out to reveal just a guitar or keyboard part.
The root of my Red Cabin fever was the single “Patterns” with its eerie vocal delivery, hypnotic acoustic guitar rolls, and judicious use of electric keyboard, along with a killer chorus – a really perfect alt-pop single. A close second was “The Pull,” a swinging ditty released in the same period that featured a stylish red barn against a deep blue sky as its cover art. Going back in the catalogue, Right This Way’s title track and “First Things” caught my attention, as did “Another Time” from the Wander EP.
But they did not prepare me the double blast of Red Cabin albums early in 2016. Both Camp Fire and White Morning are stellar efforts. Camp Fire runs a gamut of styles, with electronic keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, and tightly arranged vocals. “The Darkest Relief” reminds me a bit of Todd Rungdren, “I Want To” has a great soaring chorus melody line, “Secret Stories” exudes a lovely wistful quality with its acoustic guitar and arranged vocals, while “I Can’t Wait” has a more conventional poprock feel.
White Morning has the ambiance of a concept album, right down to the cover art. “Stuck” sounds a bit Weezer at times (in a good way), with a Beatles melody wash over the vocals, “All the Years” is a bit more indie poprock with great keyboards, guitar, and stronger, edgier vocals than Red Cabin typical, and “Juliet” has a nice swing with vocals that remind me of Tally Hall. Also, don’t miss Foster’s previous band, Snowday, whose 2013 single “Prickerbush” is a catchy number, again vibing on Weezer just a little.
Today’s musical DIY also extends to management, promotion and a one-man record label. So visit Red Cabin on Bandcamp where more of your hard-earned entertainment dollars will get into the hands of your favourite artists – or visit his Facebook page.